Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Daily Strength - Work

Work is man’s original vocation. It is a blessing from God, and those who consider it a punishment are sadly mistaken. 

 The Lord, who is the best of fathers, placed the first man in Paradise 'ut operaretur', so that he would work.

St. Josemaría Escrivá - Furrow
Photo via Noel Norton

Memorial of St. John Bosco, priest

When he was growing up in Turin, Italy, today’s saint trained himself to be an acrobat and juggler. After entertaining his neighbors and friends he asked them to join him in prayers or to go with him to Mass. Even as a child God worked through him—through his talents, gentle personality, and sense of humor. God inspired in John a particular love for the poor children and youth of his parish and he soon founded orphanages and schools for them. Others joined him in this work and became what is today the third largest religious congregation in the world, the Salesians, named after the gentle St. Francis de Sales whom we honored a week ago. 

Let us ask St. John Bosco to join us today in praying that young people today may be educated in the ways of justice and peace. Our reflection is from Pope Benedict’s 2012 Message for the World Day of Peace.
We Christians believe that Christ is our true peace: in him, by his Cross, God has reconciled the world to himself and has broken down the walls of division that separated us from one another (cf. Eph 2:14-18); in him, there is but one family, reconciled in love. Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: it is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution. 
To all, and to young people in particular, I wish to say emphatically: “It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true … an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?” [Address at 2005 World Youth Day] Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).
Dear young people, you are a precious gift for society. Do not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems. Do not be afraid to make a commitment, to face hard work and sacrifice, to choose the paths that demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication. Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm. Realize that you yourselves are an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future. Be aware of your potential; never become self-centered but work for a brighter future for all. You are never alone. The Church has confidence in you, follows you, encourages you and wishes to offer you the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Benedict XVI releases doves only to have them re-enter his window

Daily Strength - Service

“If two angels were to receive at the same moment a commission from God, 

one to go down and rule earth’s grandest empire, 

the other to go and sweep the streets of its meanest village,

it would be a matter of entire indifference to each which service fell to his lot, 

the post of ruler or the post of scavenger; 

for the joy of the angels lies only in obedience to God’s will, 

and with equal joy they would lift a Lazarus in his rags to Abraham’s bosom, 

or be a chariot of fire to carry an Elijah home.” 

St. Martina

She was a noble Roman virgin, who glorified God, suffering many torments and a cruel death for her faith, in the capital city of the world, in the third century. There stood a chapel consecrated to her memory in Rome, which was frequented with great devotion in the time of St. Gregory the Great. Her relics were discovered in a vault, in the ruins of her old church and translated with great pomp in the year 1634, under the Pope Urban VIII, who built a new church in her honor, and composed himself the hymns used in her office in the Roman Breviary. The city of Rome ranks her among its particular patrons. The history of the discovery of her relics was published by Honoratus of Viterbo, an Oratorian.
— Taken from Vol. I of The Lives or the Fathers, Martyrs and Other Principal Saints by the Rev. Alban Butler, the 1864 edition published by D. & J. Sadlier, & Company.
Patron: Nursing mothers; Rome, Italy.
Symbols: Maiden with a lion; being beheaded by a sword; tortured by being hung on a two-pronged hook; receiving a lily and the palm of martyrdom from the Virgin and Child.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Daily Strength - The Cross

“If you bear the cross willingly it will bear you and lead you to the desired end; that is, to that place where suffering will end, a thing which cannot happen here on earth. 

If you bear it unwillingly, you will make it a burden to you and make it heavier, while, nevertheless,you have to bear it. 

If you fling away one cross, you will certainly find another, and perhaps a heavier one.” 

(Thomas à Kempis, The Imitation of Christ)

Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time

As we pray today, let us reflect on Pope Benedict’s 2009 commentary on today’s Gospel (Mark 1: 21-28).

This year, among the Sunday celebrations, the liturgy proposes the Gospel of St Mark for our meditation. A unique characteristic of this Gospel is what is called the "messianic secret": namely, the fact that, for the moment, Jesus does not want it to be known outside the small group of his disciples that he is the Christ, the Son of God. Moreover, at this point he warns both the Apostles and the sick whom he heals not to reveal his identity to anyone. For example, this Sunday's Gospel passage (Mk 1: 21-28) tells of a man possessed by the devil who suddenly shouts: "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God". And Jesus commands the spirit: "Quiet! Come out of him!". And immediately the Evangelist notes the unclean spirit, with excruciating cries, came out of that man. Jesus not only drives demons out of people, freeing them from the worst slavery, but prevents the demons themselves from revealing his identity. And he insists on this "secret" because what is at stake is the success of his very mission, on which our salvation depends. Indeed, he knows that to liberate humanity from the dominion of sin he will have to be sacrificed on the Cross as the true Paschal Lamb. The devil, for his part, seeks to dissuade him so as to divert him instead toward the human logic of a powerful and successful Messiah. The Cross of Christ will be the devil's ruin, and this is why Jesus always taught his disciples that in order to enter into his glory he must suffer much, he must be rejected, condemned and crucified (cf. Lk 24: 26), for suffering is an integral part of his mission.

Jesus suffered and died on the Cross for love. On close consideration, it was in this way that he gave meaning to our suffering, a meaning that many men and women of every age have understood and made their own, experiencing profound tranquility even in the bitterness of harsh physical and moral trials. … We can be certain that no tear, neither of those who are suffering nor of those who are close to them, is lost before God. The Virgin Mary kept her Son's secret in her maternal heart and shared in the painful hour of the passion and crucifixion, sustained by her hope in the Resurrection. Let us entrust to her the people who are suffering and those who work every day to support them….

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Memorial of St. Thomas Aquinas, priest and doctor

Today’s saint was born in Italy and studied philosophy and theology with the most learned man of the time, St. Albert the Great. Though some called him a “dumb ox” because of his physical size and a shy, quiet personality, St. Albert declared that “the lowing of this dumb ox would be heard all over the world.” Indeed, because of his teaching and writing, St. Thomas Aquinas has often been called the greatest theologian of all time. When Pope Urban IV instituted the feast of Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, he asked Thomas to compose hymns and prayers which continue to be used for benediction, holy hours, and Eucharistic adoration: Pange Lingua, O Salutaris Hostia, Tantum Ergo, and Adoro Te Devote. In June 2010 Pope Benedict gave three of his Wednesday General Audiences on St. Thomas, from which we have the following reflection. May our love of the Eucharist increase in us and all Christians a greater dedication to peace.

In speaking of the sacraments, St Thomas reflects in a special way on the Mystery of the Eucharist, for which he had such great devotion, the early biographers claim, that he would lean his head against the Tabernacle, as if to feel the throbbing of Jesus' divine and human heart. In one of his works, commenting on Scripture, St Thomas helps us to understand the excellence of the sacrament of the Eucharist, when he writes: "Since this [the Eucharist] is the sacrament of Our Lord's Passion, it contains in itself the Jesus Christ who suffered for us. Thus, whatever is an effect of Our Lord's Passion is also an effect of this sacrament. For this sacrament is nothing other than the application of Our Lord's Passion to us". We clearly understand why St Thomas and other Saints celebrated Holy Mass shedding tears of compassion for the Lord who gave himself as a sacrifice for us, tears of joy and gratitude.

Dear brothers and sisters, at the school of the Saints, let us fall in love with this sacrament! Let us participate in Holy Mass with recollection, to obtain its spiritual fruits, let us nourish ourselves with this Body and Blood of Our Lord, to be ceaselessly fed by divine Grace! Let us willingly and frequently linger in the company of the Blessed Sacrament in heart-to-heart conversation!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Daily Strength - The Mission of My Life

God has created me to do Him some definite service. 
He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. 
I have my mission. 
I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. 
I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. 
He has not created me for naught. 
I shall do good; 
I shall do His work. 
I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place, while not intending it if I do but keep His commandments. 
Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am, I can never be thrown away. 
If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him, in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him. If I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. 
He does nothing in vain. 
He knows what He is about. 
He may take away my friends. 
He may throw me among strangers. 
He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. 
Still, He knows what He is about.

Cardinal Newman

St. Angela Merici, virgin

The saint was born in 1474 in the diocese of Verona. Early in life she dedicated herself to Christ as His bride. After the death of her parents, she desired to live solely for God in quiet and solitude, but her uncle insisted that she manage his household. She renounced her patrimony in order to observe most perfectly the rule for Franciscan Tertiaries.
During a pilgrimage to the Holy Land in 1524, she lost her eyesight temporarily. Pope Clement VII, whom she visited in Rome, desired her to remain in the Holy City. Later she founded a society for girls, under the protection of St. Ursula; this was the beginning of the Ursuline Order. St. Angela was almost seventy when she died; her body remained incorrupt for thirty days. Remarkable phenomena occurred at her burial in the Church of St. Afra.
— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Bodily ills; disabled people; handicapped people; illness; loss of parents; physically challenged people; sick people; sickness.
Symbols: Cloak; ladder.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Daily Strength - Quote from Pope John XXIII

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. 
Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfilled potential.
Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, 
but with what it is still possible for you to do.”

Pope John XXIII.

Memorial of Sts. Timothy and Titus, bishops

St. Timothy
Timothy was Paul's dearest disciple, his most steadfast associate. He was converted during the apostle's first missionary journey. When Paul revisited Lystra, Timothy, though still very young (about twenty) joined him as a co-worker and companion. Thereafter, there existed between them a most intimate bond, as between father and son. St. Paul calls him his beloved child, devoted to him "like a son to his father" (Phil. 2:22). Of a kindly disposition, unselfish, prudent, zealous, he was a great consolation to Paul, particularly in the sufferings of his later years. He also assisted the apostle in the establishment of all the major Christian communities and was entrusted with missions of highest importance. Timothy was with Paul during his first Roman imprisonment. Paul made his self-sacrificing companion bishop of Ephesus, but the finest monument left him by his master are the two canonical Epistles bearing his name.
— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Intestinal disorders; stomach diseases.
Symbols: Club and stones; broken image of Diana.

St. Titus
St. Titus, a pagan by birth, became one of St. Paul's most illustrious disciples. He accompanied the apostle on several of his missionary journeys and was entrusted with important missions. Finally he came with St. Paul to the island of Crete, where he was appointed bishop. He performed this duty in accordance with the admonition given him, ". . . in all things show yourself an example of good works" (Tit. 2:7).

Tradition tells us that he died a natural death at the age of 94, having lived in the state of virginity during his whole life. St. Paul left a worthy monument to Titus, his faithful disciple, in the beautiful pastoral letter which forms part of the New Testament. Today's feast in his honor was introduced in 1854.
— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Crete.
Symbols: Broken images; ruined temple of Jupiter.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pope explains how twitter can help people find answers about life

In concise phrases, often no longer than a verse from the Bible, profound thoughts can be communicated” says Benedict XVI for World Day of Communications 2012.

He noted that for effective communication to take place there is a need for silence and reflection to take place. He noted that many important answers in life are being searched through the internet, where at times questions and answers can become a “bombardment” through search engines and social networks. 


Silence and Word: Path of Evangelization

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

As we draw near to World Communications Day 2012, I would like to share with you some reflections concerning an aspect of the human process of communication which, despite its importance, is often overlooked and which, at the present time, it would seem especially necessary to recall. It concerns the relationship between silence and word: two aspects of communication which need to be kept in balance, to alternate and to be integrated with one another if authentic dialogue and deep closeness between people are to be achieved. When word and silence become mutually exclusive, communication breaks down, either because it gives rise to confusion or because, on the contrary, it creates an atmosphere of coldness; when they complement one another, however, communication acquires value and meaning.

Silence is an integral element of communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist. In silence, we are better able to listen to and understand ourselves; ideas come to birth and acquire depth; we understand with greater clarity what it is we want to say and what we expect from others; and we choose how to express ourselves. By remaining silent we allow the other person to speak, to express him or herself; and we avoid being tied simply to our own words and ideas without them being adequately tested. In this way, space is created for mutual listening, and deeper human relationships become possible. It is often in silence, for example, that we observe the most authentic communication taking place between people who are in love: gestures, facial expressions and body language are signs by which they reveal themselves to each other. Joy, anxiety, and suffering can all be communicated in silence – indeed it provides them with a particularly powerful mode of expression. Silence, then, gives rise to even more active communication, requiring sensitivity and a capacity to listen that often makes manifest the true measure and nature of the relationships involved. When messages and information are plentiful, silence becomes essential if we are to distinguish what is important from what is insignificant or secondary. Deeper reflection helps us to discover the links between events that at first sight seem unconnected, to make evaluations, to analyze messages; this makes it possible to share thoughtful and relevant opinions, giving rise to an authentic body of shared knowledge. For this to happen, it is necessary to develop an appropriate environment, a kind of ‘eco-system’ that maintains a just equilibrium between silence, words, images and sounds.

Daily Strength - Self-Inquiries

"Let not soft slumber close your eyes, 
Before you've collected thrice
The train of action through the day! 
Where have my feet chose out their way? 
What have I learnt, where'er I've been, 
From all I've heard, from all I've seen? 
What have I more that's worth the knowing? 
What have I done that's worth the doing? 
What have I sought that I should shun? 
What duty have I left undone, Or into what new follies run? 
These self-inquiries are the road 
That lead to virtue and to God. " 
Isaac Watts

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Day Eight

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 
Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ

Day Eight: United in the Reign of Christ 
To the one who conquers I will give a place with me on my throne(Rv 3:21) 

On this last day of our week of prayer for Christian Unity we celebrate the Reign of Christ. Christ’s victory enables us to look into the future with hope. This victory overcomes all that keeps us from sharing fullness of life with him and with each other. Christians know that unity among us is above all a gift of God. It is a share in Christ’s glorious victory over all that divides.

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul, Apostle

According to Pope Benedict, St. Paul never referred to what happened to him on the road to Damascus and his subsequent change as a “conversion.” As we reflect on part of Pope Benedict’s General Audience of September 3, 2008, let us pray that all Christians may “encounter” Christ who alone can bring about the unity for which we have been praying.

Paul never once interprets this moment as an event of conversion. Why? There are many hypotheses, but for me the reason is very clear. This turning point in his life, this transformation of his whole being was not the fruit of a psychological process, of a maturation or intellectual and moral development. Rather it came from the outside: it was not the fruit of his thought but of his encounter with Jesus Christ. In this sense it was not simply a conversion, a development of his "ego", but rather a death and a resurrection for Paul himself. One existence died and another, new one was born with the Risen Christ. There is no other way in which to explain this renewal of Paul. None of the psychological analyses can clarify or solve the problem. This event alone, this powerful encounter with Christ, is the key to understanding what had happened: death and resurrection, renewal on the part of the One who had shown himself and had spoken to him. In this deeper sense we can and we must speak of conversion. This encounter is a real renewal that changed all his parameters. Now he could say that what had been essential and fundamental for him earlier had become "refuse" for him; it was no longer "gain" but loss, because henceforth the only thing that counted for him was life in Christ.

Nevertheless we must not think that Paul was thus closed in a blind event. The contrary is true because the Risen Christ is the light of truth, the light of God himself. This expanded his heart and made it open to all. At this moment he did not lose all that was good and true in his life, in his heritage, but he understood wisdom, truth, the depth of the law and of the prophets in a new way and in a new way made them his own. At the same time, his reasoning was open to pagan wisdom. Being open to Christ with all his heart, he had become capable of an ample dialogue with everyone, he had become capable of making himself everything to everyone. Thus he could truly be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Turning now to ourselves, let us ask what this means for us. It means that for us too Christianity is not a new philosophy or a new morality. We are only Christians if we encounter Christ. Of course, he does not show himself to us in this overwhelming, luminous way, as he did to Paul to make him the Apostle to all peoples. But we too can encounter Christ in reading Sacred Scripture, in prayer, in the liturgical life of the Church. We can touch Christ's Heart and feel him touching ours. Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we truly become Christians. And in this way our reason opens, all Christ's wisdom opens as do all the riches of truth. Therefore let us pray the Lord to illumine us, to grant us an encounter with his presence in our world, and thus to grant us a lively faith, an open heart and great love for all, which is capable of renewing the world.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Stir-Fried Broccoli and Mushroom

Yesterday was Day 1 of the Chinese New Year and many households traditionally refrain from meat. Chinese believe that eating vegetarian on the first day will cleanse their spirit and body, bringing longevity. It’s always great to serve up some fresh vegetable dishes that are in line with the spirit of the New Year. 

Here is an easy recipe from Season with Spice to follow:

Chinese Stir-Fried Broccoli and Mushroom Serve 5-6

What you’ll need:
1 large head of broccoli – cut into florets
8 shiitake mushrooms – sliced
Half a carrot - sliced thinly
1 garlic clove - minced
1 inch ginger - sliced thinly
Half a medium-sized red onion – chopped
2 tablespoons oil
Dash of sesame oil


1 1/2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons cornstarch - dissolved in some water
Salt and white pepper to taste


1. Blanch broccoli in boiling water for one minute, then remove and drain.

2. Heat oil in a wok, and then sauté garlic, onion and ginger until aromatic. Add carrots, mushrooms and a little water (2-3 tbsp), and stir-fry for two minutes, or until the vegetables start to soften.

3. Add in the broccoli, seasoning, and a little more water, and stir-fry for another two minutes. Then add in the diluted cornstarch and mix well. Let the sauce boil for a minute until it thickens.

4. Taste and adjust seasoning. Dish out and serve hot.

- For a more festive presentation, add in toasted slivered almond or cashew, scallops, and/or large prawns.

Daily Strength - God's Will

“Everyone who breathes, high and low, educated and ignorant, young and old, man and woman, has a mission, has a work. 

We are not sent into this world for nothing; we are not born at random; 
we are not here, that we may go to bed at night, and get up in the morning, toil for our bread, eat and drink, laugh and joke, sin when we have a mind, and reform when we are tired of sinning, rear a family and die. 

God sees every one of us; 

He creates every soul, . . . for a purpose. 

He needs, He deigns to need, every one of us. 

He has an end for each of us; we are all equal in His sight, 
and we are placed in our different ranks and stations, not to get what we can out of them for ourselves, but to labor in them for Him. 

As Christ has His work, we too have ours; as He rejoiced to do His work, we must rejoice in ours also.” 

 (St. John Neumann, from the sermon: “God’s Will the End of Life”)

Our Lady of Peace

Our Lady Queen of Peace has been the patroness of the Catholic Church in Hawaii since 1827. The first Catholic missionaries to the Hawaiian Islands arrived at Honolulu Bay on July 7, 1827. These missionaries were members of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and of Perpetual Adoration and upon their arrival in the islands dedicated their labors to the patroness of the Congregation, Our Lady Queen of Peace and placed the Islands under her protection. It was in her honor that these missionaries erected the first Catholic Church.
After more than a decade of contentious relations with the Hawaiian government, the missionaries were finally allowed to proceed with their evangelization work. In thanksgiving, the Cathedral of Our Lady of Peace was erected. Completed in 1843, a statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace was placed in the niche above the main altar. The Cathedral was solemnly blessed and dedicated to Our Lady of Peace on the feast of the Assumption, August 15, 1843.
The original statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace is located in the Convent Chapel of the Sisters of the Sacred Hearts in Picpus, France. During the troubled days of the Commune, in 1871, the populace, incited by atheistic leaders, invaded churches, chapels and convents, destroying every emblem of religion that fell into their hands. The chapel of Our Lady Queen of Peace became their prey. The Superior, with tears in her eyes, begged them to spare their beloved shrine; and, strange to say, the rabble went away, leaving it unharmed. When the tempest of the persecution subsided, the statue was again returned to its usual place and honored and venerated by a phalanx of devout souls.
On July 9, 1906, the statue of Our Lady Queen of Peace was solemnly crowned in the name of Pope Pius X by his Eminence Cardinal Amette, Archbishop of Paris. Every year on July 9 the feast of Our Lady Queen of Peace is celebrated with great solemnity in the Congregation of the Fathers and Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and Perpetual Adoration.
During World War I Pope Benedict XV added the title Queen of Peace to the Litany of Loreto.
Things to Do:
  • Pray the Litany of Loreto.
  • Pray for peace in the world, especially for an end to the war in Iraq and for the safety of all soldiers.

Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, bishop and doctor

Francis was born on August 21, 1567, and ordained to the priesthood in 1593. From 1594 to 1598 he labored at the difficult and dangerous task of preaching to the Protestants of Chablais and effected the return of some 70,000 souls to the Catholic faith. In 1602 he became bishop of Genf. His zeal for souls is attested in 21,000 extant letters and 4,000 sermons which exemplify how he applied St. Paul's words: "I have become all things to all men." You may epitomize his character in two words, kindliness and lovableness — virtues that were the secret of his success. His writings reflect his kindheartedness and sweet disposition.
Most widely known is the saint's Introduction to the Devout Life, which, with the Imitation of Christ, is rightly considered the finest outline of Christian perfection. Francis' Introductionproves to the world that true piety makes persons amiable, lovable and happy. A renowned and holy friendship existed between him and St. Frances de Chantal. In cooperation with her he founded the Visitation Nuns in 1610. Out of love for his own poor diocese, he refused opportunities for advancement, including the cardinalate. In recognition of the Introductionand his other writings, Francis has been declared a doctor of the Church.
How Francis developed a gentle and amiable disposition is a story in itself; he was not born a saint. By nature his temperament was choleric, fiery; little was needed to throw him into a state of violent anger. It took years before he mastered his impatience, his unruly temper. Even after he became bishop, there were slips, as for instance, when someone rang a bell before he had finished preaching. The important point, of course, is that by constant perseverance he did in time attain perfect self-mastery. Wherein lies a lesson.
— Excerpted from The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch
Patron: Authors; Diocese of Baker, Oregon; Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio; Catholic press; Diocese of Columbus, Ohio; confessors; deaf people; deafness; Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware; educators; journalists; teachers; writers.
Symbols: Bald man with a long beard wearing a bishop's robes holding a book; heart pierced with thorns or picture of the Virgin.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Churchill on Italian cruise liners

The current plight of the Costa Concordia recalls a comment made by Winston Churchill.

After his retirement he was cruising the Mediterranean on an Italian cruise liner and some Italian journalists asked why an ex British Prime Minister should chose an Italian ship.

There are three things I like about being on an Italian cruise ship said Churchill.

First their cuisine is unsurpassed.

Second their service is superb. 

And then, in time of emergency, there is none of this nonsense about women and children first. 

Daily Strength - Patience

We have need of patience with ourselves and with others; with those below,
and those above us, and with our own equals; with those who love us and
those who love us not; for the greatest things and for the least; against
sudden inroads of trouble, and under our daily burdens; disappointments as
to the weather, or the breaking of the heart; in the weariness of the body,
or the wearing of the soul; in our own failure of duty, or others' failure
toward us; in every-day wants, or in the aching of sickness or the decay
of age; in disappointment, bereavement, losses, injuries, reproaches; in
heaviness of the heart; or its sickness amid delayed hopes. 
In all these things, from childhood's little troubles to the martyr's sufferings,
patience is the grace of God, whereby we endure evil for the love of God.


Delicious Chocolate Mousse - Only 2 Ingredients

Two ingredients (seriously, only chocolate and water) and five minutes later, you will be eating The Best Chocolate Mousse of Your Life. 

And you don’t even need any fancy kitchen gadgets. Patience and a bit of elbow grease are required, but we always need those in the kitchen, right?

This amazing discovery was made by the famous French chemist, Hervé This, who is also known as the man who unboiled an egg. The recipe, which is also called Chocolate Chantilly, starts with melting chocolate in water and ends with whisking it until thickened. Sounds like it goes against everything we’ve been thought about working with chocolate, right? The recipe not only works, but also produces a mousse with the purest chocolate flavor ever.

Since the recipe has only two ingredients, it all comes down to the quality of the chocolate you use. Use your favourite chocolate as long as it has 70% cocoa solids. If you find the taste of bittersweet chocolate too strong, you may add a bit of sugar.

Recipe by Herve This & Heston Blumenthal
4 servings
  • 9.35 ounces (265 grams) bittersweet (%70 cocoa solids) chocolate, chopped (preferably Valrhona Guanaja)
  • 1 cup (240 ml) water
  • 4 tbsp sugar, optional
  1. Place a large mixing bowl on top of another slightly smaller one, filled with ice and cold water (the bottom of the large bowl should touch the ice). Set aside.
  2. Put chocolate and water (also sugar and/or liquor if you’re using) in a medium-sized pan and melt the chocolate over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour the melted chocolate into the mixing bowl sitting on top of ice and water, and start whisking with a wire whisk (or an electrical hand-held mixer) until thick. Watch the texture as you whip and make sure not to over-whip as it will make the mousse grainy. If the mousse becomes grainy (which is possible at your first try), transfer it back into the pan, reheat until half of it is melted, pour it back to the mixing bowl and whisk again briefly.
  4. Divide into four serving cups and serve immediately.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Day Six

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ

Day Six: Changed by God’s Steadfast Love 
This is the victory, our faith (cf. 1 Jn 5:4)

On this day we concentrate our attention on God’s steadfast love. The Paschal Mystery reveals this steadfast love, and calls us to a new way of faith. This faith overcomes fear and opens our hearts to the power of the Spirit. Such faith calls us to friendship with Christ, and so to one another.

St. Emerentiana

St. Emerentiana was a Roman virgin, the foster sister of St. Agnes who died at Rome in the third century. Already as a catechumen she was conspicuous for her faith and love of Christ. One day she boldly upbraided the idolaters for their violent attacks on the Christians. The enraged mob retaliated by pelting her with stones. She died in the Lord praying at the tomb of St. Agnes, baptized in her own blood.
A church was built over her grave which, according to the Itineraries, was near the church erected over the place of burial of St. Agnes, and somewhat farther from the city wall. In reality Emerentiana was interred in the coemeterium majus located in this vicinity not far from thecoemeterium Agnetis.
Patron: Those who suffer from digestive disorders.
Symbols: Young girl with stones in her lap, usually holding a palm or lily.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Daily Strength - Giving

The most obvious lesson in Christ’s teaching is that there is no happiness in having and getting anything, but only in giving. 
I repeat, there is no happiness in having or in getting but only in giving. 
And half the world is on the wrong scent in the pursuit of happiness. 
They think it consists in having and getting, and in being served by other. 
It consists in giving and serving others. 
He that would be great among you, said Christ, let him serve. 
He that would be happy, let him remember that there is but one way – it is more blessed, it is more happy, to give than to receive.

Henry Drummond 

Third Sunday of Ordinary Time

In today’s Gospel (Mark 1: 14-20), Jesus begins his public ministry with these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” Conversion is a necessary element to greater unity in the Church. As we pray that Christians may be dedicated to peace, let us pray for the necessary conversion that can lead to greater peace and unity. Our reflection is from Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical on ecumenism Ut Unum Sint, #15.

The messianic proclamation that "the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God is at hand", and the subsequent call to "repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15) with which Jesus begins his mission, indicate the essential element of every new beginning: the fundamental need for evangelization at every stage of the Church's journey of salvation. This is true in a special way of the process begun by the Second Vatican Council, when it indicated as a dimension of renewal the ecumenical task of uniting divided Christians. "There can be no ecumenism worthy of the name without a change of heart".

The Council calls for personal conversion as well as for communal conversion. The desire of every Christian Community for unity goes hand in hand with its fidelity to the Gospel. In the case of individuals who live their Christian vocation, the Council speaks of interior conversion, of a renewal of mind.

Each one therefore ought to be more radically converted to the Gospel and, without ever losing sight of God's plan, change his or her way of looking at things. Thanks to ecumenism, our contemplation of "the mighty works of God" (mirabilia Dei) has been enriched by new horizons, for which the Triune God calls us to give thanks: the knowledge that the Spirit is at work in other Christian Communities, the discovery of examples of holiness, the experience of the immense riches present in the communion of saints, and contact with unexpected dimensions of Christian commitment. In a corresponding way, there is an increased sense of the need for repentance: an awareness of certain exclusions which seriously harm fraternal charity, of certain refusals to forgive, of a certain pride, of an unevangelical insistence on condemning the "other side", of a disdain born of an unhealthy presumption. Thus, the entire life of Christians is marked by a concern for ecumenism; and they are called to let themselves be shaped, as it were, by that concern.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Pope marks feast of St Agnes

Pope Benedict XVI marked the Feast of St. Agnes Saturday with a centuries-old rite: the blessing of the lambs from whose wool the Pallium will be made. 

Two small lambs were carried to the Pope in baskets, as per tradition, by the Canons Regular of the Lateran Basilica. Agnes means “lamb” in Latin. 

The saint of the same name was a martyr of the early 4th century, known for her consecrated virginity, who was killed for refusing to worship pagan gods. To symbolize St. Agnes’ purity, one of the lambs wears a crown of white flowers, while the other wears a red floral wreath to recall her faithful witness even unto death. 

Reared in the convent instead of Tre Fontane in Rome, come Summer these same two lambs will be brought to the monastery of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere where in a custom that has remained in tact down through the centuries, they will be shorn to supply the wool from which the religious sisters will weave the Pallium . 

These white stoles are worn by metropolitan archbishops around their necks as a symbol of their authority and unity with the pope. The Holy Father presents them to newly-appointed metropolitan archbishops each year on June 29, the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Memorial of St. Agnes, virgin and martyr

The name of today’s saint, an early Church virgin and martyr, comes from A Greek word that means pure and chaste, but it looks very much like the Latin word “Agnus” or “Lamb.” She so closely followed the Lamb of God that she offered herself as a sacrifice. Since the 9th Century two lambs are brought to the pope on this day to be blessed. On Holy Thursday they will be sheared and their wool used to make the pallium or vestment that is given to new archbishops on June 29, the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. The pallium is a visible sign of the unity between the archbishop and the pope. As we pray for greater visible unity among Christians let us reflect on the first speech that Pope Benedict gave to the Cardinals who elected him.

Just as the Lord willed that Peter and the other Apostles make up the one Apostolic College, in the same way the Successor of Peter and the Bishops, successors of the Apostles…, must be closely united with one another. This collegial communion, despite the diversity of roles and functions of the Roman Pontiff and the Bishops, is at the service of the Church and of unity in the faith, on which the efficacy of evangelizing action in the contemporary world largely depends. Therefore, it is on this path, taken by my Venerable Predecessors, that I also intend to set out, with the sole concern of proclaiming the living presence of Christ to the whole world. …

With full awareness, therefore, at the beginning of his ministry in the Church of Rome which Peter bathed in his blood, Peter's current Successor takes on as his primary task the duty to work tirelessly to rebuild the full and visible unity of all Christ's followers. This is his ambition, his impelling duty. He is aware that good intentions do not suffice for this. Concrete gestures that enter hearts and stir consciences are essential, inspiring in everyone that inner conversion that is the prerequisite for all ecumenical progress.

Theological dialogue is necessary; the investigation of the historical reasons for the decisions made in the past is also indispensable. But what is most urgently needed is that "purification of memory", so often recalled by John Paul II, which alone can dispose souls to accept the full truth of Christ. Each one of us must come before him, the supreme Judge of every living person, and render an account to him of all we have done or have failed to do to further the great good of the full and visible unity of all his disciples.


Friday, January 20, 2012

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity - Day Three

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity
Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ

Day Three: Changed by the Suffering Servant 
Christ suffered for us (cf. 1 Pt 2:21)

This day calls us to reflect on the suffering of Christ. Following Christ the Suffering Servant, Christians are called to solidarity with all who suffer. The closer we come to the cross of Christ the closer we come to one another.

St. Fabian, pope and martyr; St. Sebastian, martyr

These martyrs of the early Church, the first a pope and the second a soldier, show us courage in the face of conflict. Their courage came from their faith in Jesus. It was faith in his victory over sin and death. We share this faith with the saints and with Christians everywhere. As we pray for full unity among us, let us reflect on the last part of the introduction that the Polish ecumenical group wrote for this year’s Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity, the theme of which is “We will all be changed by the Victory of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As we pray for and strive towards the full visible unity of the church we - and the traditions to which we belong - will be changed, transformed and conformed to the likeness of Christ. The unity for which we pray may require the renewal of forms of Church life with which we are familiar. This is an exciting vision but it may fill us with some fear! The unity for which we pray is not merely a “comfortable” notion of friendliness and co-operation. It requires a willingness to dispense with competition between us. We need to open ourselves to each other, to offer gifts to and receive gifts from one another, so that we might truly enter into the new life in Christ, which is the only true victory.

There is room for everyone in God’s plan of salvation. Through His death and resurrection, Christ embraces all irrespective of winning or losing, “that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (Jn 3,15). We too can participate in His victory! It is sufficient to believe in Him, and we will find it easier to overcome evil with good.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Daily Strength - Friendship

Do not keep the alabaster boxes of your love and tenderness sealed up until your friends are dead. 
Fill their lives with sweetness. 
Speak approving, cheering words while their ears can hear them and while their hearts can be thrilled by them. 
The thing you mean to say when they are gone, say before they go. 
The flowers you mean to send for their coffins, send to brighten and sweeten their homes before they leave them. 

Henry Beecher

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: Poland vs Ukraine

Day Two: Changed through patient waiting for the Lord
Let it be so now, for it is proper to fulfil all righteousness (Mt 3:15)

We continue our prayer for the dedication of Christians to peace so that we may bear a more convincing witness to the name of Christ before all men and women of good will by reflecting on part of the introduction to the materials which an ecumenical group in Poland prepared for this year’s Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity.

In 2012 the European Football Championship will be held in Poland and Ukraine. This would never have been possible in years gone by. For many this is a sign of another “national victory” as hundreds of millions of fans eagerly await news of winning teams playing in this part of Europe. Thinking of this example might lead us to consider the plight of those who do not win - not only in sport but in their lives and communities: who will spare a thought for the losers, those who constantly suffer defeats because they are denied victory due to various conditions and circumstances? Rivalry is a permanent feature not only in sport but also in political, business, cultural and, even, church life.

When Jesus’ disciples disputed over “who was the greatest” (Mk 9,34) it was clear that this impulse was strong. But Jesus’ reaction was very simple: “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9,35). These words speak of victory through mutual service, helping, boosting the self-esteem of those who are “last”, forgotten, excluded. For all Christians, the best expression of such humble service is Jesus Christ, His victory through death and His resurrection. It is in His life, action, teaching, suffering, death and resurrection that we desire to seek inspiration for a modern victorious life of faith which expresses itself in social commitment in a spirit of humility, service and faithfulness to the Gospel. And as he awaited the suffering and death that was to come, he prayed that his disciples might be one so that world might believe. This “victory” is only possible through spiritual transformation, conversion. That is why we consider that the theme for our meditations should be those words of the Apostle to the Nations. The point is to achieve a victory which integrates all Christians around the service of God and one’s neighbor.

St. Marius and Family

Their feast does not appear in the Roman calendar until the twelfth century. The Acts of these martyrs are wholly legendary. They give the following details. Marius was a Persian of noble extraction. With his wife, who was also noble-born, and his two sons, Audifax and Abachus, he came to Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II (268-270) to venerate the graves of the martyrs. They visited the Christians in prison, encouraged them by word and deed, and shared with them their goods. And like Tobias of old, they buried the bodies of the saints.
It was not long before they themselves were arrested; and when neither threats nor allurements could make them offer sacrifice to the idols, they were savagely flogged. Martha was the first to die, but not before she had fervently exhorted her husband and sons to endure steadfastly whatever tortures might be inflicted for the faith. All were beheaded in the same place and their bodies thrown into the fire. Felicitas, a saintly Roman woman, succeeded in recovering the half-burnt bodies and buried them on her estate.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Daily Strength

It is quite idle, by force of will to seek to empty the angry passions out of our life. 

Who has not made a thousand resolutions in this direction, only and with unutterable mortification to behold them dashed to pieces with the first temptation? 

The soul is to be made sweet not by taking the acidulous fluids out, but by putting something in – a great love, God’s great love. 

This is to work a chemical change upon them, to renovate and regenerate them, to dissolve them in its own rich fragrant substance. 

If a man let this into his life, his cure is complete; if not, it is hopeless. 

Henry Drummond

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Eight Days reflecting on our change in Christ Over the coming week we are invited to enter more deeply into our faith that we will all be changed through the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ. The biblical readings, commentaries, prayers and questions for reflection, all explore different aspects of what this means for the lives of Christians and their unity with one another, in and for today’s world. We begin by contemplating the Christ who serves, and our journey takes us to the final celebration of Christ’s reign, by way of His cross and resurrection: 

Day One: Changed by the Servant Christ The Son of Man came to serve (cf. Mk 10:45) 

On this day we encounter Jesus, on the road to victory through service. We see him as the ”one who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life, a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). Consequently, the Church of Jesus Christ is a serving community. The use of our diverse gifts in common service to humanity makes visible our unity in Christ.